Friday, August 23, 2019
   
Text Size

Site Search powered by Ajax

Stop and Give Thanks—a study of how a lack of thanksgiving can result in all kinds of trouble and sin in our lives

My wife, Nancy, and I had a miserable travel experience a few years ago. She and my granddaughter, Emily, went up to Canada to get Nancy's mother for Thanksgiving. Because my neck was killing me, I prayed and felt it would be okay if Emily and Nancy went by themselves. I never like her going alone in the dark, especially for a trip. So I said, "You take the car I drive, I know yours is having a few problems." I felt she would be safe with the Bonneville!

Well, she got about five miles beyond the border and my car just stopped—there was a short in the alternator. Nancy and Emily were stranded on the freeway for 1-1/2 hours, before she finally got word to me by phone and I went up to get her. Well, I had no choice but to drive the car Nancy left, the Oldsmobile with the problems. What do you think happened?

You guessed it. Just as I got to Nancy, the Olds started overheating. As a result, we had to tow the Bonnevillle back, and with the help of a service station, I was able to "baby" the Olds back home. What helped the most was Emily's attitude when I finally got up to Canada to pick her and Nancy up. She was happy. She didn't seem to mind sitting with Grandma in the car for 1-1/2 hours. She didn't mind being carried along the shoulder of the freeway to a telephone. She loved being carried by Grandma across a busy freeway in the rain and the dark to a gas station to call Grandpa. You see, Grandma kept singing songs to her the whole way and she loved it. She didn't even care if her birthday was being celebrated in a gas station, or that it would be delayed until 1:00 in the morning. She was with Grandma. Everything was fine!

So when I arrived, in one of the worst moods I've been in in years, Emily was happy. When we finally decided to go ahead and pick up Great-Grandma McBride, she wanted to sing. We asked her what she wanted to sing about. She said, "Jesus," referring to a song from one of her Christian videos, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus in the morning…" So there we were, one car being towed, the other overheating and having transmission problems, happily going down the freeway singing praises to Jesus. We sang and laughed most of the time!

By the next day the Bonneville was fixed, so I had to drive the Olds to the car dealership. When I got in the Olds, however, I couldn't shut the door. I had to leave then, or I wouldn't be able to pick Nancy up from work, nor pick up the Bonneville until after Thanksgiving, so I decided to hold the door shut with one hand, and drive with the other. I was again in a very unsaintly mood, but this time there was no Emily. I decided if singing had worked for us the previous night, it would work again. So here is this unhappy driver—one hand on the door, the other on the steering wheel—singing: "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus in the morning, Jesus in the noon time…" It worked! Pretty soon I was praying, had a good perspective, and actually started to laugh at how ridiculous the whole scene was. So that Thanksgiving for me was not only a time of celebration with family, but a time to be taught again about praise, worship and thanksgiving!

 

Stop and give thanks and glory to God

The commands to give thanks

I am impressed again with the power and need for thanksgiving

 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

These are holy triplets that should be kept together. They are all needed for us to be balanced and spiritually healthy.

 

Philippians 4:6-7. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Ephesians 5:20 "…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

It's pretty obvious this is an important activity. What happens if we disobey these commands?

The consequences

The consequences if we don't give thanks are awful: the wrath of God.

 

Let's begin at Rom. 1:21 and notice what happens:

 

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one an other. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

 

What a frightening passage! Romans 1 describes some pretty scary results due to a lack of thanksgiving. I have never read Romans 1 without feeling concerned for our culture and for those who are described in this passage. This chapter, by the way, describes what happened to ancient Rome as it decayed from within. We can also forecast any present or future culture by this chapter.

 

Here are the seven steps that result from a lack of thanksgiving to God—vv. 21b-32.

 

First step: They become inept in their thinking and reasoning and begin to act unwisely.

vv. 21b-22—but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.

They didn't just neglect God, they crowned themselves and their judgments. Thus, even though they thought they were wise, they were foolish. In a relentless slide, we come to the next step downward. Ultimately, they replace God.

Second step: They turn to idolatry, worship idols of their own making (v. 23), and other idols who are the result of God's creation, e.g., things and people.

vv. 23, 25b—"…and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles…and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen."

 

Mankind was created to worship the Creator. Without God, however, people will turn to and worship creation, bowing down to worship images of animals and of themselves. What a pitiful scene! But man is still not through his downward spiral.

Third step: They become impure in their sexual lives, i.e., heterosexuality.

vv. 24-25b—"Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another." Here we see God lets people go the way of their own choices if they choose not to worship and give thanks to God. The usual result of worshipping anyone or anything besides God is promiscuity. God is to be the chief love of our hearts, but if we refuse to love Him, we will focus our affection on experiences and others.

"…and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen."

 

No fate is worse than God abandoning us to ourselves. Three times in this passage we hear: "God gave them over…" "God gave them over…" "God gave them over…"—vv. 24,26,28. Once we violate God's laws and ignore His provision, we look for another compass: a substitute for the truth. The result is we take another downward step.

Fourth step: They exchange the truth for a lie.

v. 25a—"They exchanged the truth of God for a lie… "

 

When God gives us over to our passions, we don't get better; we get worse. Society's problems don't straighten out. Once the truth is exchanged for a lie, society begins a fast downward slide. Many begin to believe the lies of the enemy of our soul, who wants to kill, steal and destroy us. They question God's laws/provisions. Then at a point in time, society/a person will embrace a sexual lie and thus God will give them over again to their own lusts. In other words, man will take a step down in his practice of immorality:

Fifth step: Some will become indecent and unnatural in their sexual orientation—vv. 26-28 (homosexuality).

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

 

At first the numbers of people involved in an exchange of sexual identity and orientation will be small. Eventually, however, more and more will believe the lie that God's design for our sexuality (within the confines of a marriage relationship) and between a man and a woman is just one option, if not wrong. In increasing numbers, people will be duped and enticed to abandon natural relations and accept homosexuality as their ideal.

 

 

Haven't we arrived at the bottom of the pit? No, not yet. God takes another step back and man becomes totally out of control.

Sixth step. vv. 28-31—"Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done…

"…They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless."

 

When man is cut free from God and the truth, he is free to drift wherever his lust and sin may lead. Picture this world as one author describes it: "Paul gathers people from all levels of society. Gang members line up beside corporate raiders; prostitutes beside church gossips…"—Charles Swindoll, Classic Truths, p. 13.

 

Why such evil in the world? How can man be capable of such atrocities? Should this say anything to us?

The same evil we see in the world burns in our hearts as well. We shouldn't act self-righteous, for it is only because of our relationship with Jesus that we are able to oppose the darkness within us. It is only because of His work that the light has dawned in us and we are able to see clearly.

 

The bottom of the slide is almost complete. We simply want to acknowledge the next and final step is really the result of the sixth.

Seventh step: They totally ignore any vestige of truth and actively approve of sin in others.

v. 32—"Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them."

 

In this final step we see that sin loves company and approval, thus man's total depravity will not only be practiced, but approved and sanctioned by society. Does this downward spiral remind you of our society?

Does our world and our nation have any hope? Yes. Even with those seven terrible, downward steps in mind, let me remind you why they all happen. The cause of all these terrible results in individuals and cultures is found in v. 21a—"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him…"

 

The whole downward slide is because we refuse to glorify God. Glorifying Him is the chief aim of humankind; and the way we best glorify God is by recognizing all we are, have, or experience comes from Him. If we don't want to glorify Him, the result is we refuse to give Him thanks—v. 21. We don't acknowledge Him in His place as Creator and God and give Him glory. We are ungrateful for His gifts of food, clothes, shelter, and life itself, and thus we don't give Him thanks.

You can tell a person and a culture that has consciously decided to ignore the clear, plain message about God:

  • They are selfish, ungrateful, self-centered.
  • They seek their own glory, the glory of others, or their causes, etc.
  • They see the world as their servant.
  • They have expectations for everyone else.

But not only is the culture guilty of not giving thanks and glorifying God; you can also tell Christians who are reverting back to their former ways. They forget to glorify God for what they see, and all they focus on is what is wrong, lost, undone, or incomplete. There is no thanks for what they have.

 

Be careful, Christian—the lack of worship and thanksgiving are signs of returning to sin. When we come to a worship service, we should be overcome with praise and thanksgiving. The fact that it doesn't spontaneously happen or that we need to be encouraged to give praise and worship, is an obvious sign we are returning to our old ways and seeking our own glory and will.

 

The cure and prevention of a downward slide is to stop and give thanks and glory to God—Eph. 5:3-7.

 

The lack of thanksgiving is the key indicator of our spiritual sickness, but if sincerely entered into, thanksgiving can also be the key to our spiritual recovery. Paul's letter to the Ephesians makes this very clear to all Christian believers. This is what he says to us:

Eph. 5:3-7

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

 

Do you see how this whole passage centers on three words?

"…but rather thanksgiving."

 

Do you see all the evils listed in this passage?

  • sexual immorality
  • any kind of impurity
  • greed
  • obscenity
  • foolish talk
  • coarse joking

All these "are improper for God's holy people"—v. 3b. Why would Paul mention these sins and go out of his way to say they are improper for God's holy people, if they weren't struggling with them? The Ephesians, along with the Romans, could potentially lose their focus on God and giving thanks to Him. Thus he warns them in no uncertain terms in vv. 5-7, "For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for be-cause of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them." (see Romans 2:1)

 

This is not a warning about the potential of losing their salvation; it's giving them a test to see if they have any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. So once more, if we begin to return to any of these sins, the cure is found in thanksgiving. It may seem like a stretch for some of us here today to see thanksgiving as such a critical indicator of our health and such a potent cure for our sin.

My final illustration is of one who did it right—the Samaritan leper—Luke 17:11-19. However, in this incident we can also see a reflection of the lack of thanksgiving as well. Ten lepers who asked for mercy received cleansing:

"They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, 'Jesus, Master, have pity on us!' When he saw them, he said, 'Go, show yourselves to the priests.' And as they went, they were cleansed."

 

Wouldn't you be thankful? Nine out of the ten did not return to the Lord to give Him thanks for the miracle He had performed in their lives. This is a picture of the response we all sometimes have, along with all nations/cultures.

 

Contrast that with the thanksgiving of the Samaritan leper:

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"

How about the forgiveness and cleasing for us here today? How long has it been since your gratitude took the form of falling on your face before God in prayer to thank Him for His goodness to you? And how long has it been since you lifted your voice in the presence of others to give thanks and praise to God for His goodness to you?

Appendix

Ephesians 5:3-7

  • sexual immorality
  • any kind of impurity
  • greed
  • obscenity
  • foolish talk
  • coarse joking

Romans 1:18-21

  • sexual impurity
  • exchange truth for lie
  • idolatry—things/people
  • unnatural relations
  • indecent acts
  • depraved mind
  • envy
  • murder
  • strife
  • deceit
  • malice
  • gossip
  • slanderers
  • God-haters
  • insolent
  • arrogant
  • boastful
  • invent ways of doing evil
  • disobey parents
  • senseless
  • faithless
  • heartless
  • ruthless